'Scalene' is so obsessed with its own gimmick that it never, ever lets you forget it. The gimmick is that the story in 'Scalene' will be told by three different points of view from three different characters, each one offering a new way of looking at the whole. They've even gotten far too cutesy with the movie's name, which refers to a scalene triangle where all angles and sides are unequal to each other (see what they did there?). To make it even more obvious, all of the artwork for the movie features an eye containing all three primary colors. Even the actor's names, when presented in the opening credits are color-coded. We get it! Three different, but unequal perspectives on the story at hand! There's no need to rub it in so much.
So, what's the story? There are three main players in this psychological thriller. Janice (Margo Martindale), who is the mother of a mentally disabled son. (Martindale is an amazing actor, she really is. If you haven't seen her in the second season of 'Justified' you're missing out.) Then there's her son, Jakob (Adam Scarimbolo), who has suffered a brain injury and is now dependent on his mother's care. He doesn't talk, he only grunts, and gestures at objects that he wants. Finally, there's Paige (Hanna Hall) who is a caretaker that Janice hires to take care of Jakob when she needs to work or go out with her new boyfriend.
I will admit to being enraptured with the beginning of the movie. Janice storms up to Paige's home with a gun. Then we soon realize that the movie is playing Janice's side of the story in reverse chronological form. Which is fine, even though we've seen it done better in 'Memento.' What caused Janice to become so enraged with Paige? Well, that's what we're here to find out.
Then comes Jakob's side of the story, which isn't told in reverse order. Honestly, it doesn't have an order. His is more a conglomeration of images strewn throughout his mind, scenes of his life meshing together with other scenes. A dream-like state fitting for Jakob's wandering personality.
The story being told is that of Paige accusing Jakob of sexually assaulting her while Janice was away on one of her dates.
The final tale is Paige's. That's where the story derails. This isn't your average derailing though; this is akin to the tracks being near a sheer 500-foot cliff with landmines at the bottom just in case there were any survivors. An explanation to the mystery of what happened that is so illogically conceived that you honestly wonder if the wrong ending got in there by mistake. It's like director Zack Parker and co-writer Brandon Owens were spit-balling ideas for how the movie should end and they just started throwing out crazier and crazier ideas, and then as a joke, they decided to film the craziest solution they came up with, intending to put it in as an alternate ending in the special features, but mistakenly included it in the final cut of the film.
The movie is so wrapped up in trying to present it's cute way of telling its story, all while trying to throw in a twist ending, that it doesn't stop to realize that it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Margo Martinsdale really acts in this movie. Giving it all she's got, even though at times you can tell that Parker has given her direction to act one way (surprisingly giddy) when she should've been acting the other (coolly deadly). Sadly though, the inconceivable ending to this whole thing essentially erases whatever came before it. Cut the trunk out from underneath a tree, it doesn't matter how tall or strong it is, it's going to fall; and boy does 'Scalene' fall. When the secret is revealed I challenge you not to yell, "Wait, what the hell?!" (Spoiler alert: It's practically impossible). It's the most deflating twist ending since M. Night Shyamalan's 'The Village' (well, it's possible that there's been quite a few disappointing twist endings since then, but I always have to fit in 'The Village' whenever I'm bashing bad surprise endings).
'Scalene' gets too lost in its own gimmick. It's too tied up in trying to find a neat way to tell its story that it forgets the story it's telling has to be logically thought out in the first place.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Scalene' is brought to Blu-ray by Breaking Glass Pictures. They've provided a standard Blu-ray keepcase and a 25GB Blu-ray Disc. It's a Region A release.
At times the 1080p visuals here are strikingly clear and full of detail. I was impressed by the shot of Janice walking up to Paige's house at the beginning. The picture seemed to exude detail from the rusty red patterned brick-work of her house to the lush greenery surrounding it. Everything looked like it was supposed to look in HD. There were a few more scenes like that opening on. Each one featuring details in mid- to long-range shots, rich colors, and clearly concise edges. Then there came the bad.
'Scalene' is full of banding problems. Like really, really bad banding problems. Most of the problems stem from light cutting through darker areas of the picture (like a lighted doorway surrounded by dark walls). The gradients never really mesh together well. Whenever a color gradient shows up in a darker scene banding is extremely evident. There are numerous times during Jakob's perspective part of the movie that features unsightly banding.
Compression artifacts like jaggies and micro-blocking can be seen in the movie's undefined black areas that are pretty flat to begin with. While there are some daylight scenes that border on greatness, there are far too many other technical problems with this presentation.
The audio really isn't that great either since we're given a lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mix that fails to really invest its listener. Dialogue is all over the place. It can be loud and clear, but other times it's hard to hear. There is a scene where Paige and her mother are dining in a restaurant and the voices sound awfully hollow. Surrounds are never really engaged during the movie. The sound mix favors brashness and harshness over clarity and fidelity. It has little in the way of sound effects or scenes that could really showcase a good mix, but even so, the presentation here wavers on simple things like dialogue. It just isn't up to snuff.
'Scalene' started off as a decent, fun psychological thriller, then it wandered into nutso territory and never recovered. It gets so lost in its own gimmick that it simply forgets that the conclusions it's come to in order to solve the movie's most pressing questions are completely nonsensical. It's characters deviate wholeheartedly from anything resembling rational thought. With the video a mess, along with the audio, there's no real worth here. That is, unless you were thinking that you really, really wanted to watch that 3 ½ hour-long documentary about the movie being made. As much as I love to see indie filmmakers doing their thing and telling their stories without any big studio backing, 'Scalene' simply fails on its own merits.